With just over a minute remaining in the second period of the No. 4 men’s lacrosse team’s away game at Keene State College on Saturday, Tufts led by six goals. They had dominated the second quarter and looked comfortably in the lead.
By the end of the third quarter, the Owls had blanked the Jumbos for 15 straight minutes, while scoring nine goals to take a 13-10 lead.
After opening the season with a definitive 24-6 routing of then-No. 18 Middlebury, Tufts eked out its second win of the season after a back-and-forth final quarter, beating Keene State 17-16.
While the Jumbos continued their stellar offensive play in New Hampshire, this game did not play out with as much ease as their season opener. Keene State, a team that downed the previous-No. 12 Western New England University in its first game of the season, did not roll over after Tufts controlled the game early.
“Lacrosse is definitely a game of runs,” senior midfielder Dan Leventhal said. “We knew the whole time that, when we were up 10-4, we [could] never let up the gas. We were going to go on our runs, and they were going to go on theirs.”
Before five minutes had expired in the first quarter, Tufts had already struck three times. Junior attackman Chris Schoenhut, the team’s leader in goals, netted the first of the day on an assist from the team’s leader in points, sophomore attackman John Uppgren. Senior tri-captain midfielder Beau Wood struck next for Tufts, while Uppgren added one of his own at the 10:46 mark before Keene could get on the board.
Sophomore attackman Tyler McKelvie of Keene State scored his first of nine goals – one shy of tying Keene’s school record – with just under five minutes left in the first quarter. Though he would tack on two more in the first quarter, Uppgren netted his second of his four total goals to preserve a 4-3 lead at the end of the period.
McKelvie kicked things off in the second quarter after four minutes of scoreless play, netting his fourth goal to knot the game at 4-4. The rest of the second quarter, however, belonged almost exclusively to the Jumbos. Three goals from Schoenhut, another from Uppgren and separate strikes from senior midfielder Peter Bowers and sophomore attackman Ben Andreycak pushed Tufts out to a 10-4 lead with 1:05 remaining before halftime.
This type of breakout scoring has been typical of a strong Tufts attack through the first two games of the season.
“We play offense as a team, so all of our defensive guys are included in that,” head coach Mike Daly said. “From our faceoff unit to our defense, we expect those guys to make plays in the offense. Our goalie [senior Patton Watkins] had an assist [in] the first game, so as soon as we get that ball, we’re really thinking offense. It’s more of a team philosophy, and it’s something we really believe and our guys embrace that play.”
If the second quarter was dominated by Tufts, however, then the third was certainly dominated by Keene.
“We wanted to play them, [to] come out against a new opponent for us,” Daly said. “They’re just a tough, scrappy, hard-working team. I hope our guys didn’t think, since we had them down a little bit, that they were going to quit and go away.”
The Owls were able to strike twice in the final minute before halftime, and then seven times more throughout the third quarter. Freshman attackman Robert Hart scored his third and fourth goals of the game, while McKelvie hit his fifth, sixth and seventh goals during the stretch. Before the last 15 minutes began, Keene had built up a three-goal lead.
The Jumbos did not lose their steam entirely, however, and bounced back to secure a non-conference victory against the Owls.
“That’s just not even paying attention to the scoreboard,” Leventhal said of the playing from behind. “That’s just [us] going out and playing the full game, and just keep doing what we’ve been doing – keep attacking the cage.”
Tufts scored seven times in the first 13 minutes of the last period, interrupted by McKelvie’s final two goals. Schoenhut’s sixth and final score gave Tufts a 16-15 lead with two and a half minutes to play in regulation. Junior attackman Cole Bailey extended the lead to two goals before Hart made a final effort that pulled the Owls within one goal. With just four seconds left to play, though, Tufts was able to run out the clock and notch the win.
“Our team [has] been in a lot of those situations,” Daly said. “We’ve won a lot of one-goal games over the years. Of all the things to be proud about from the game on Saturday, we showed a great deal of team strength and team unity, and a lot of selflessness at the end. [Our] guys just made plays that we needed to make. There’s a lot of confidence, but, most importantly, it was the poise and calmness that allowed us to make those plays.”
Uppgren led Tufts with nine points total on four goals and five assists, while Schoenhut netted six for the second consecutive game.
The next test for Tufts will come in the team’s home opener against the Stevens Institute of Technology. Tufts will hope to repeat its last encounter with Stevens, when it downed the Ducks 14-9 in the second round of the NCAA Championship last year.